News and reports
January 23, 2004 | Pages 10 and 11
Defending Martin Luther King's legacy
ATLANTA--"Bush, go home!" chanted more than 700 people as George W. Bush arrived to place a reef on Martin Luther King's tomb. Adding to his record of outrageous and hypocritical public relations stunts, Bush's visit to Atlanta angered people throughout the U.S. and beyond.
As he hid behind a heavy police presence and city buses used as barricades, Bush laid a wreath on King's grave and tried to ignore the chorus of boos from the crowd--and then he scurried away after two minutes. Meanwhile, several hundred people managed to push past Secret Service barricades, and two protesters were arrested.
The obvious contradiction between Bush's warmongering and racism and King's antiwar and civil rights efforts fueled the anger. "When I heard Bush was coming here, I couldn't believe it," Kathy Nicholas, a flight attendant from Atlanta, told reporters. "I was outraged and disgusted, and I just think it's a photo op. It's so transparent."
After leaving King's tomb, Bush rode off to attend a $2,000-a-plate fundraiser where he collected campaign contributions from 700 wealthy Republicans and Democrats. Democratic Sen. Zell Miller as well as other Georgia Democrats were in attendence to voice their support for Bush's policies. All in all, Bush raised $2.3 million during his trip to Georgia.
In its trademark "fair and balanced" style, Fox News channel's Hannity and Colmes attempted to portray Bush as an "honorable" man and the protesters as hypocrites who said "disgusting" things about the president--as if Bush's attack on affirmative action during King's 2003 birthday ceremony wasn't the height of hypocrisy. Thousands of people will take to the streets in the annual MLK Day March to show their for the real peace and justice that Dr. King stood for, not Bush's sham version.
NEW YORK--Despite cold that caused school closings and even a few deaths around the region, hundreds gathered in front of Madison Square Garden to voice their opposition to the war in Iraq and to the U.S.-sponsored occupation of Palestine. A protester from Georgia pointed out that Dr. Martin Luther King's treatment in the mainstream media tends to completely ignore the more radical views that he began to express in the year or two before being assassinated.
The same protester also explained the significance of gathering in the record-breaking cold: "It means the people of the left are tough, and we're gonna win!" At an indoor rally that the crowd marched to later, a similar confidence was expressed in many of the speeches.
Despite the vast array of groups they represented, all speakers seemed to agree with labor union organizer Brenda Stokely of District Council 1707, who called for an alternative to the two-party system. "I'm not going to cast a vote for Imperialist A or Imperialist B!" exclaimed Stokely.
Nelly Bailey of the Harlem Tenants' Council also spoke of imperialism when she explained that landlords' efforts to remove tenants from affordable housing are part of a drive to maximize profits by authorities everywhere. "Homelessness is increasing by leaps and bounds," she added.
CHICAGO--Last week, about 25 activists and family members of wrongfully convicted Black and Latino men and women gathered at the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to protest her unwillingness to investigate documented claims of abuse, torture and other misdeeds in the cases of at least 90 Black men who are currently imprisoned in the state of Illinois.
Protesters--including former death row inmate Aaron Patterson--picketed outside and then marched up to her office inside of the State of Illinois Building. The protest at Madigan's office was the first action by a newly formed group, Enough is Enough (EIE).
Once inside protestors demanded to speak with Madigan--wanting to know when she would investigate torture and abuse claims. Madigan's chief investigator promised the State's Attorney was interested in speaking with the group, but that she was out of town.
Protestors promised to keep the pressure on Madigan until she agreed to meet and launch an investigation. "This [police corruption] has gone on for too long," one protester, Gwen, told Socialist Worker. "It's time we stand up and do something about it because while it's us standing here today--it could be you tomorrow."
EIE--initiated by activists from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP)--formed to launch a wider campaign to fight for justice around the 90 cases involving police torture and misconduct and their wrongful convictions. The CEDP is also planning to mark the fourth anniversary of the Illinois moratorium on executions at a forum on January 31.
Although the Illinois legislature recently passed several death penalty reforms, activists are continuing to fight for abolition as the only solution to the ongoing corruption and racism in the administration of the death penalty.
A lawsuit filed by Madigan seeks to overturn the commutations of 32 men who did not sign their clemency petition or whose death sentences had previously been vacated. Renaldo Hudson, who is named in Madigan's suit, will speak at the forum from his prison cell via a telephone hook-up along with freed Illinois death row prisoner Madison Hobley, Jennifer Jenkins of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and CEDP activists.